The State of Alaska has formally responded to the EPA about the use of the 404-C authority to stop development of the proposed Pebble Mine. The deadline was Tuesday and the State of Alaska’s response came in the form of a lengthy letter from Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty. He didn’t mince words.
In the second paragraph he wrote that the EPA’s actions have had and will continue to have a profound impact on employment opportunities for citizens of Alaska. He suggests that the EPA’s actions have thrown Alaskans out of work and hurt small businesses. Geraghty also contends that the EPA’s actions also spread beyond the Pebble Mine project. He writes that an enormous cloud of uncertainty now hangs over all lands in the Bristol Bay watershed, including other State lands and the thousands of acres held by Alaska Native Corporations. In the formal response to the EPA, the state is calling on the Agency to not use its Clean Water Act Section 404-C authority until permit applications for an actual Pebble Mine proposal have been submitted and reviewed by State and federal agencies. Michael Geraghty claims that until then the EPA does not have the information and analysis available to it to legitimately, credibly and competently consider whether it is appropriate for the agency to exercise its 404-C authority.
The state is supporting the established NEPA permitting process and Attorney General Geraghty stresses that no mine will be constructed unless and until the mine proponents have successfully completed those processes and all the legal reviews have been concluded. He suggested that the NEPA permitting process could take 5-years or more. The state is lamenting the lack of specifics put forward by the EPA about the kinds of limitations or prohibitions that might be imposed on the Pebble Mine project. Geraghty asserts that the EPA is essentially opening the gate to requests for 404-C actions on any project in Alaska that needs a 404-permit. In the formal response, the state observes that the lands subject to EPA’s action are entirely State lands and have always been open to mineral exploration and possible development. Attorney General Geraghty declared that one of the main factors driving the State’s selection of the lands in and around the Pebble project was their mineral potential. He ended the letter by calling on the EPA to stop the 404-C process started back in February and to allow the Corp of Engineers and the State of Alaska to exercise their regulatory rights and responsibilities in the event applications for a mining project are ever submitted. The Pebble Limited Partnership has not applied for any of the State and Federal permits that would trigger the start of the NEPA permitting process.